Accelerating hardware innovation in Africa

How far away are we from proprietary hardware solutions that are designed by Africans and made in Africa?

Tremendous challenges and opportunities exist in Africa today, ranging from significant shortcomings in education, healthcare, and agriculture, to energy and basic infrastructure. Culturally ingrained, low-tech inventiveness has started to coalesce with the exposure to, and inclusion of, high-tech platforms.

However, it is self-evident that Africa “can’t app” itself out of all its problems, as the underlying infrastructure is simply not pervasive enough. This is being recognized by a wave of future leaders who will be known for intelligent and interconnected hardware, rather than just software solutions, made in Africa, designed by Africans.

Deep necessities and natural limitations in communities across the continent have exposed numerous opportunities to design and make products. By employing a strategy of importing basic technology platforms and employing design thinking methodologies, the African entrepreneur will conceive, prototype, scale, and manufacture products that solve unique problems by engineering these platforms into innovative and value-added customer hardware solutions.

Africa’s strategy should be one of applied engineering versus fundamental research, one of leapfrogging versus re-inventing. To risk mitigate Africa’s self-driven interconnected hardware strategy, the continent has to focus on deepening its university curriculums with applied science topics, sophisticate its incubator models, enrich market research and design abilities, prototype building infrastructure, and augment its appeal for international technology partnerships. Governments will have to play their role by creating stable environments, facilitating attractive international business exchanges, and providing meaningful incentives.

Over the next decade, Africa’s youthful population will embark on solving its human development needs through innovative and interconnected hardware solutions. This will be enabled by their unmatched proximity and understanding of the needs of local communities. Along the way, these innovators will expand people’s choices for living their lives in ways that are equitable, participatory, productive, and sustainable, giving them the opportunity to export these solutions globally and capitalize on Africa’s global relevance in the 21st century.

About the Author

Bert Bruggeman is senior-level executive with a 20+ year Silicon Valley track record of successful technology product development, operational excellence, general management, and C-level leadership for a broad range of high-tech industries. His successful engineering and management career has included positions with Cypress Semiconductor, SunEdison, SVTC Technologies, IMEC, Avogy, and Gefira Solutions.

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